'Epitome of a teacher': Maine East Golden Apple winner surprised on pajama day
Judy Tyler, an AP biology and gifted program teacher in her 31st year at Maine East High School in Park Ridge, was surprised by colleagues and students Monday afternoon -- on the school's pajama day, no less -- with news she is one of this year's Golden Apple Award recipients.
Stunned by congratulations from the crowd gathered to celebrate, the Barrington resident immediately turned to hug Principal Michael Pressler and her husband, John, a former counselor at the school.
After gathering her thoughts for several moments, her first words were, "I'm in pajamas!"
She quickly regained her composure and excitedly joined the celebration. Tyler later become deeply emotional when asked to reflect on what the moment meant to her.
"There's a lot of people in this building who deserve to be recognized," she said tearfully.
Junior Angela Righi was among the students who joined the surprise celebration.
"She's just incredibly supportive and makes us all feel like human beings -- like we're equal to her," Righi said.
Maine Township High School District 207 Superintendent Ken Wallace called Tyler "the epitome of a teacher," as well as one of the pillars of the district's instructional coaching program that ensures all its faculty are highly skilled.
Tyler takes a group of students each summer to a part of the country affected by a disaster or in need of aid, to show the impact service can have, Wallace said.
Pressler described Tyler as very much an empath, as well as a person with a high level of social currency in the building. He said she's one of the first teachers he goes to for feedback on a new idea.
"Students know she would do virtually anything for them to help them be successful," Pressler said.
Among the rewards Golden Apple winners receive is an opportunity for a free spring sabbatical at Northwestern University. As a lifelong learner with the ability to immediately apply new knowledge, Pressler said the sabbatical will benefit not just Tyler but also her students and colleagues at Maine East.